Skip to main content

Full text of "History And Human Relation"

See other formats


help from the historian to bring us to the recognition of
the criminality of religious persecution or wholesale
massacre or the modern concentration camp or the
repression of dissident opinions. And those who do
not recognise that the killing and torturing of human
beings is barbarity will hardly be brought to that
realisation by any labels and nicknames that historians
may attach to these things. There is one way in which
the historian may reinforce the initial moral judgment
and thereby assist the cause of morality in general; and
that way lies directly within his province, for it entails
merely describing, say, the massacre or the persecution,
laying it out in concrete detail, and giving the specifica-
tion of what it means in actuality. It is possible to say
that one of the causes of moral indifference is precisely
the failure to realise in an objective manner and make
vivid to oneself the terrible nature of crime and suffering;
but those who are unmoved by the historical description
will not be stirred by any pontifical commentary that
may be superadded. If historical analysis begins to
move further than this exposure of the wickedness of
the action itself, however—if it directs our attention to
the doers of the action and turns the enquiry into an
examination of these—then complications are liable to
occur. The offence itself is no less horrifying, but
judgment is liable to be affected if it transpires that the
perpetrators are African tribesmen driven into a des-
perate position by white exploiters; or if the case turns
out to be one of direct reprisal, instituted to check
atrocities against one's own people. In this manner
history draws us further away from our original simple